Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax 6

By TC


Up next in the Live Trax Series is Volume 6 which captures both nights of the 2006 run at Fenway Park in Boston.  For those of you who still buy CDs, this is a 4-disc set.

DMB Live Trax Volume 6
07.07.2006 & 07.08.2006

Night 1
1) Everyday
2) Pig
3) Proudest Monkey »
4) Satellite
5) The Idea of You
6) Grey Street
7) Bartender
8) Crash Into Me
9) Jimi Thing
10) The Last Stop
11) Digging a Ditch
12) Tripping Billies
13) Can't Stop
14) Hunger for the Great Light
15) Louisiana Bayou
16) Ants Marching
17) Smooth Rider
18) Stay (Wasting Time)

Night 2
1) One Sweet World
2) What Would You Say
3) Don't Drink the Water
4) Say Goodbye
5) Grace Is Gone
6) American Baby
7) Break Free
8) Sweet Caroline »
9) So Much to Say » Anyone Seen the Bridge »
10) Too Much
11) Can't Stop
12) Crush
13) What You Are
14) Dancing Nancies »
15) Warehouse
16) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel
17) American Baby Intro »
18) Two Step

These two shows were released very much in the same way as Live Trax 2.  Just a few months after they were performed (September), they were available for purchase.  Uniquely with these shows, the demand was so great in the Boston area that DMB actually released this one to stores.  Of course, that created a bit of confusion as some fans could find the show in stores and some fans could not.  It was one of those situations where your Best Buy manager may have ordered a couple to put on the shelves, or maybe not.  (Anyone in the nation could order it to put on shelves, it's just whether or not you knew to do that.)

There was great fanfare before these shows because of the historic venue.  Not many bands get to play Fenway, and to date DMB has only played there twice (these shows in 2006 and two shows in 2009).  The 2006 summer tour was an interesting one in that the band was coming off an album release the year prior (Stand Up) and many fans (including myself) were not getting into the new songs all that well.  Rumors swirled then (as they do now) that the band started to reject its sound during this time (especially Leroi) and wanted to call it quits.  Nonetheless, the early part of 2006 saw some fantastic sets and inspired playing.  In addition, 2006 saw the permanent addition of Rashawn Ross on trumpet.  Having guested with the band extensively in 2005, Rashawn began touring with the band and completed the current horn arrangement - saxaphone and trumpet.  I don't mind a horn section, and I'm not nearly as offput with Rashawn as some fans of the band.  That said, especially early on, Rashawn took much more of a back seat than he does today.  With that as the backdrop, these shows were played to a huge crowd at Fenway right before the summer tour break.

This was the first Live Trax to feature multiple nights.  Because of the volume of material, I won't review song by song.  I'll keep it to the highs and lows of each night.

Night 1 is a little rough.  I'm not a fan of Everyday as an opener (I'm not a fan of it period really), but at least it gives way to a fantastic Pig.  It's in the running for the best Pig ever released (although it falls short of that for me).  The Idea of You, a new song for this tour, was (and still is) unfinished at this point, but the catchy riff makes it an enjoyable listen.  Grey Street follows and is pretty great here.  It begins to drag at this point though, with Bartender being played and having a Butch Taylor solo that would not quit (and desperately needed to).  I liked Butch, but this for some reason never hit me.  Jimi Thing was also a tired version of it's 2003 self here, and this is absolutely the worst The Last Stop released by a wide margin.  The band just never hits it.  Even a decent Tripping Billies can't pick up the end of this show as a run through Can't Stop (new song), Hunger for the Great Light, and Louisiana Bayou crushes the hope of a solid return.  Ants is nice but is standard here, and the encore is weak Smooth Rider.

I never got into Stand Up.  I remember buying the album the day it came out, listening to it in the car on the way home from Best Buy, and thinking to myself, "Who is this?"  I have since listened to the album a few more times and have come to realize that it's not as awful as I initially thought, but it's definitely not the DMB that I knew and enjoyed.  It turned me off the band for a little while.  Even now, songs like Hunger and Louisiana Bayou leave a bad taste in my mouth.  It's a little unfair to continue to judge those songs in that light, but it's like a bad memory that I have a hard time avoiding.

I'll also pause here to talk about Can't Stop.  I understand that most everyone hates this song.  I'll agree with that, especially with these piano driven versions in 2006 and 2007.  But I actually like the guitar driven versions once Tim joined the group full-time.  I can't stand it when The Lovely Ladies guest (another post for another time), but the Live at Wrigley Field version is pretty good.  I'd be satisfied to hear it at a show if it was played that way.

Night 1 gets 1 out of 5 stars for me.  That's almost the bottom of my scale (I reserve 0 stars for the worst of the worst).  Other than the Pig and The Idea of You, there's nothing here that I ever recall wanting to revisit.

Night 2 on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

Night 2 starts with a fairly standard One Sweet World but then goes into a great What Would You Say and Don't Drink the Water.  There is an extended prelude with Don't Drink the Water which was truncated on the Starbucks exclusive Live Trax album version of this song.  I prefer it to remain.  Say Goodbye, Grace Is Gone (with the hoedown outro), and American Baby (the best released version) are great here.  Break Free was a new song at this point and was just beginning to find it's structure droppping a solo and a verse from previous versions in the tour.  Rashawn is great on it.

The surprise of Night 2 is Sweet Caroline, a Red Sox/Fenway tradition, done after the 7th song no less (7th inning stretch, get it?).  The audience recording captures the crowd's singing much better.  I bet it was fun to be there for it.  But, on the recording, it's not like I need to revisit Sweet Caroline or keep it in the playlist.

Standouts of the second half of the set include Crush and Warehouse.  Can't Stop is the only repeat from night 1, unfortunately, but doesn't detract too much from the show.  In an unrelated note, I remember liking What You Are a lot more back then than I do now.  I suppose songs go in and out of favor over time.

The encore is a bit lackluster, although thankfully this is one of the shortened Two Steps with Butch and not Central Park long.  That song does not need a lengthy piano solo to sap it's energy.  It needs to be played loud and hard.

Night 2 gets 4 stars.  The set is mostly devoid of Stand Up (sans the American Babys) and the new song, Break Free, is in a good spot here.  Most of the performances are tight (if a bit auto-tuned - the whole release is in spots), and definitely has a strong finish.

The sound on this one might be among the most debated.  Some people adore it, but the vast majority hate it.  It's definitely heavy with the kick drum.  It sounds just okay to me, not great.  I can hear what I need to hear, but it can get exhausting in my ears after a bit.  Sound also is an issue here because there is some crowd noise piped in at certain points and practically removed at other points.  It's very artificial sounding in some spots.  And, it's auto-tuned to correct a few vocal rough spots.  It sounds like a really decent quick mix for a show.

Overall, I give the set 2 out of 5 stars.  I know my review averages out to 2.5 stars total for each night, but I round down because of the sound of it.  As for a purchase decision, I'm torn because Night 2 really is worth it but Night 1 isn't.  Plus, it's pricy as it's a double disc set.  If it were $17.99, I'd say go ahead and get it because there's enough there that it's worth it.  But, I remember I paid $28.99 for it at Best Buy (my store had it) and felt it was a bit too high.  I'm going to say no based on list price with the caveat that if you can find it used or find it on sale at some point that it's worth it for night 2.
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